Los Angeles has a long history with Ethiopian food, though much of that past has been centered around only a few blocks of busy Fairfax just south of Wilshire. Now a newcomer is adding to the conversation, dropping an upscale casual location well west in Santa Monica under the name Berbere by T&T Lifestyle.
Fans may initially know Berbere and the overall T&T Lifestyle name from time spent at Smorgasburg in late 2019, before the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Owners Tezeta “Tete” Alemayehu (the restaurant’s owner and executive chef, and an Addis Abba, Ethiopia native) and partner Tsega-Ab “Bicko” Fenta spent time there crafting an entirely vegan menu of Ethiopian staples and twists, from a tofu-based enkulal firfir scramble to a grilled cauliflower burger, before closing along with the other vendors in March 2020. Since then, Alemayehu and Fenta have been cooking out of the Colony ghost kitchen space, but now they’re going the standalone brick and mortar route with a full-service setup coming later this summer at 510 Santa Monica Boulevard, just around the corner from the Promenade. You can even find them back at Smorgasburg — which reopened last weekend — selling a small handful of their most popular dishes.
So what to expect from the new Berbere? A broad expansion of the wife and husband team’s current menu, with more nods to California produce as well as Ethiopian spices and flavors. The duo will continue to make their injera in-house, and will offer sit-down dining for the first time. There’s no firm date for opening yet, but expect something in the coming months.
The upcoming arrival of Berbere in Santa Monica is good news for fans of LA’s Ethiopian scene, as it grows the base beyond the Fairfax neighborhood while also helping to bring another known chef further into the spotlight. Follow the all-vegan restaurant’s upcoming opening progress over on Instagram in the meantime.